One Gay at a Time
By Eddie Shapiro
Isn't there some weird story about you just missing each other before you met?
Scarpelli: I had been back and forth between here and L.A. during the early '90s. I had rented this little room in a wonderful little house that looked like a barn from a woman named Marilyn and then I ended up going back to L.A. and giving her notice. A couple of years later I was living in L.A. and I had opened a digital editing facility. I had a friend visiting from Sedona, who walked in with Jude. And I tell ya, it was like kismet. My heart went 'ka-thunk.' It happens when you least expect it! I was very attracted to him from the moment he walked in. We started talking and I said that I had lived in Sedona. I told him that I lived in a house that looked like a barn and he was like, 'That's weird, I live in a house that looks like a barn.' I said I lived with this woman named Marilyn, and he said, 'I live with Marilyn!' We realized that he had moved in like a week after I moved out. Before I left there, I had given Marilyn a gift of a charcoal drawing I had done of the house. She had hung it over the bed in that room. So for those two years that he was living there, he actually slept under the picture that I drew.
That's just creepy!
Belanger: When we got together we certainly had a lot to talk about because we knew all of the same people and had lived in the same place. So it made it really easy to talk and not just jump into bed together. Which, of course, happened.
But you had a choice.
Belanger: Yeah, we had an option. And something to talk about after!
Scarpelli: It's interesting, too, because we both got attracted to Sedona separately. And that's important because it's not like I'm here because of him or he's here because of me. It's truly where each of us wanted to be separately, and then together it's that much better because it's very difficult to be single in a small town, let alone gay and single in a small town. So having a partner to share it with is that much better.
Oh, please! This was fate! He was sleeping under your charcoal print!
Scarpelli: It's like a friggin' novel!
A bad one! You can't write this stuff.
Scarpelli: Nope, you can't.
Jude, had you been aware of One Day at a Time?
Belanger: When we met, I really didn't know until he told me.
Scarpelli: I felt good that it didn't really matter. I'm grateful for my childhood. I actually think it was a very healthy thing, being in the business. I loved it. I got to work on Broadway. Those experiences money can't buy. But it's a job, it's not who I am.
Were you ever worried of being outed sooner?
Scarpelli: I wouldn't say I was worried about it, no. Once I was out in my own personal life, I was comfortable.
And you were never a troubled Hollywood teen? No Dana Plato story there?
Scarpelli: You know, I always felt for Dana that even back then, she was not a happy girl and you could see that. There was something missing in her internally all along. And I don't know if she had not been on TV if things would have been different for her. A lot of people blame being a young actor and, yes, there are definitely challenges to living an adult life as a teenager. And that's what it came down to because you lived with many more adult responsibilities, but that doesn't mean that because of it she did the drugs or because of it she passed away. I don't know if it's related. People have problems whether you're in this industry or not and we all have to take responsibility for our lives to figure out who we are inside.
During that time, were there other teen stars that you wished were gay, too?
Scarpelli: I don't know. I thought that Tom Selleck was hot. But I was very shut down. I knew in my heart that there would always be a time but my fear kept me shut down.
Belanger: Sometimes there are these stories, though, that he just remembers out of the blue. One of them is from when he was on Broadway [in Richard III]. Al Pacino used to give him a hug every day before they went out on stage. And there was one time when he told me 'I thought Al was hot!'
Scarpelli: I was 12! But I guess you're horny at 12.
Please, you're at your horniest at 12! But tell the truth, Valerie Bertinelli made you gay, right?
Scarpelli: People used to say to me, 'You're so lucky, you get to work with Valerie Bertinelli. She's so hot.' I always thought Eddie [Van Halen] was the hot one.
Was Valerie one of the 100 Top Teen Stars, too?
Scarpelli: No, she was on one last year. 100 Top Child Stars. But Mackenzie Phillips was on the list. I gotta tell ya', they were asking me questions like about my career and the show and I was stumbling through that part of the interview. I was just like, 'Get to the out part! Get to the out part! I couldn't wait to finally be able to say that publicly even though I've been out in my personal life for a number of years. I felt two inches taller after the interview. It felt so gratifying. I look at my life 25 years ago and the thought of being able to say this in front of a TV camera was so out of my realm. To be able to do it was so satisfying.